Poker Philosophy

Poker is such an exceptionally intricate game. It has elements of skill and elements of chance. On any given hand, chance can turn a losing hand into a winner. Over the long haul, the effect of chance is greatly diminished.

It is fascinating to play. I am surprised that there are people who find it fascinating to watch on TV.

Last week I wrote about a streak of bad luck that had brought our stake from +$200 to -$25 (or so). It was frustrating because I was losing consistently while playing well. I lost with Aces. I lost with Kings. I lost to someone who stayed in with 7-2 off suit (statistically, the worst two cards you can get) and drew a full house!

Since that time we’ve come back. In fact, we’re a little under +$200 again.

Poker philosophers talk about going into ’tilt.’ That means you let your emotions get the better of you and play with a vengance… almost as if you had a grudge against the cards. Going into tilt is something losers often do. It is something a good player should watch for and take advantage of.

I often see players on tilt, winning big early in tournaments. I’ve gotten to where I can often predict their final outcome. They nearly always bust out.

I tried my best not to go into tilt while we were down, and I think I succeeded. Just to make sure, I even stepped down in stakes – going back to $5.50 tournaments.

Luck changes – or at least it disappears over the long term.

I was reading while playing last night and came across some poker philosophy which might help me be a better player. In the tournaments we play in, the top three finishers get paid. That’s very different from playing in a ‘live’ game where each hand means profit and loss.

The article pointed out that busting other players was not an obligation or even objective of playing. Players busting would take care of themselves. My goal is to survive.

This philosophy comes in to play toward the end of tournaments, where a player might be hanging by a thread and so will go ‘all in’ on hands which he might not have played earlier. Instinct says, if you have a lot of cash, keep him honest by calling. It’s everything to them, and much less significant to you. That’s a bad move… or so said the article – and I agree.

Often, going in will stake that opponent and allow him to play on. I have done that in the past and had it bite me in the tush. I will attempt to restrain myself in the future.

In the meantime, I’ll be playing against real people at Foxwoods this weekend. It is something I seldom do, but look forward to. The games will be much slower than what I’m used to online. I have no idea how the play will stack up, though I anticipate the game having more better and more worse players with fewer in the mid skill level. I will be playing against some people who are earning their living.

It will be interesting to see how I fare. Even if I run into bad luck, I think I understand cards well enough to gage my play.

Meanwhile, as I typed this I was also playing in a $16 turbo tournament. A little run of bad luck at the end held me to third, for $27 or $11 net profit.

Blogger’s note: If you’re interested, all my poker entries are chronologically strung together by this incredible blogging software (all the way back to sending my money to Costa Rica) and can be read by clicking here.

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